76ers

Four possible candidates to fill Sixers' vacant two-way spot after Shake Milton receives NBA deal

Four possible candidates to fill Sixers' vacant two-way spot after Shake Milton receives NBA deal

CAMDEN, N.J. — If you have any doubts about whether players on two-way contracts matter or have value to a team, look no further than Shake Milton.

The Sixers signed the 22-year-old combo guard to a four-year NBA deal Tuesday after Milton impressed them by both starring in the G League and playing with poise when he received NBA minutes as a rookie. 

With Milton called up and possibly in contention for backup point guard minutes this season, Norvel Pelle signed to a two-way deal and Haywood Highsmith waived, the team has one vacant two-way spot.

As a reminder, teams can have a maximum of two players under two-way contracts, in addition to a maximum of 15 players on the active roster. Players signed to two-way contracts can spend up to 45 days in a season with their NBA team and are not eligible to participate in the playoffs.

Here are four candidates: 

Marial Shayok 

Shooting will likely be the 6-foot-6 Shayok’s signature skill in the NBA. The 54th pick in this year’s draft, Shayok averaged 18.7 points and 4.9 rebounds as a redshirt senior at Iowa State and shot 38.6 percent from three-point range on 5.4 attempts per game, a substantial jump in production from his first three seasons in college at Virginia. He recognizes that his jumper is his easiest pathway toward contributing for the Sixers.

“I’ve always been a scorer and have developed my shot as years have gone by,” Shayok told NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday. “I really just simplified my game, knowing that teams need shooting; I really wanted to work on that, especially the past two years at Iowa State.”

Shayok worked alongside Milton in several drills during the Sixers’ summer league minicamp, which ran through Monday through Wednesday. 

The 23-year-old comes across as polished and professional in his approach, though he admitted Monday that being on an NBA team is “surreal still.” 

He said he hasn’t yet been given an indication of whether he’ll be on the NBA roster or receive a two-way contract.

“I have not,” he said. “I’m really just taking it a day at a time. Trying to get better, trying to be a sponge and whatever happens, happens. You've just got to try to win the day.”

Shayok, if he doesn't get an NBA deal this season, is the logical choice to take Milton’s spot.

Christ Koumadje

If the Sixers want to lean into their new identity as a big, long, defensively-oriented team, Koumadje might make sense as a two-way player. 

The 7-foot-4 Koumadje is aiming to be the first NBA player from the country of Chad. He’d surpass Boban Marjanovic as the tallest player currently in the league.

Koumadje impressed Sixers senior vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley with his defense and agility at a pre-draft workout on June 7. 

Connor Johnson, the head coach of the Delaware Blue Coats and the Sixers’ summer league team this year, named Koumadje on Tuesday as a player who’s caught his attention.

“I would say Koumadje, as a rim protector,” he said. “Going against Norvel, that’s been a great battle. … It’s been good to watch both those guys.”

With Pelle already occupying a two-way spot, giving another center in Koumadje the other two-way would be an unorthodox choice. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Blue Coats targeted him early in the G League draft. 

Terry Harris 

With Tobias Harris set to be a Sixer for at least five more years, would the team add another Harris brother to the organization?

Terry Harris played at three colleges and posted 8.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game while shooting 41.1 percent from three-point territory last season at North Carolina A&T.

Perhaps, if he can convince the Sixers that his outside shooting is an elite skill, he’ll earn a two-way slot. Harris certainly has a clean, smooth and quick release with deep range, though he acknowledged Tuesday he’ll need to prove he can hold his own defensively in summer league, which begins Friday for the Sixers. 

He’s thought plenty about playing with his older brother again for the first time since he was in eighth grade.

“Obviously it’s in the back of our heads,” he said. “If that could happen, I know we would both love it. I would love it. If that could happen, it would be a blessing. So hopefully, one day.”

PJ Dozier 

The 6-foot-6 Dozier didn’t receive a qualifying offer this summer from the Celtics, making him an unrestricted free agent. 

Though he’s played only eight NBA games in two seasons, Dozier has strong G-League credentials. He averaged 21 points per game last year for the Maine Red Claws and was named Third-Team All-G League. 

Dozier’s shooting is the weakest part of his offensive game (31.2 percent from three-point range, 66.8 percent from the foul line in 2018-19), but he’s shown a knack for scoring and looks to have the length and athleticism to play defense in the NBA.

Though Shayok seems like the reasonable favorite, Dozier could be someone who takes the open two-way spot with a strong performance in summer league if Shayok ends up being signed to the Sixers’ roster. 

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Sixers take out frustrations on Cavaliers in blowout win

Sixers take out frustrations on Cavaliers in blowout win

BOX SCORE

If ever a team needed a laugher, it was the Sixers.

After dropping five straight road games, they took their frustrations out on the Cavaliers in a 114-95 win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Sunday.

It’s the Sixers’ first victory away from home since their thrilling win in Portland on Nov. 2. They improve to 8-5 on the young season. They’re back at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday to take on the Knicks (7 p.m./NBCSP)

Here are observations from the win.

That’s how you get right

The first few possessions were not great for the Sixers defensively. It looked like another game that could be doomed by poor pick-and-roll defense and turnovers — a familiar theme throughout the young season. 

Boy, did that change in a hurry. 

The Sixers got a nice defensive boost from James Ennis, ending the first quarter on a 17-4 run and assisting on 12 of their first 15 makes. They played smothering defense and turned that into easy offense.

It was by far the Sixers’ best half of the season as they shot 68.3 percent from the field, committed just five turnovers and outscored the Cavs, 68-44. 

The most encouraging thing is that they didn’t let up. They kept their foot on the gas and never let Cleveland back in the game.

This is what it was supposed to look like

The Sixers had lost five of their last seven, which exacerbated the issues of the starting five. On Sunday, they looked like a well-oiled machine. We saw the “bully ball” offense out in full force. With their size, the Sixers are going to have mismatches pretty much every night. It was a clear emphasis against the Cavs. 

You saw Ben Simmons find Josh Richardson for a wide open three out of the post. Tobias Harris got doubled in the post and found Joel Embiid for an easy bucket. Al Horford ran the pick-and-pop with Simmons for a short jumper. 

No, Cleveland is not a defensive juggernaut, but this was the most encouraging offensive showing by the starters this season. At times, their ball movement was unreal. Now it’s about taking this performance into their next game.

It’s worth noting that Harris appears to be off the schneid as he stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 27 points (12 of 14), five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

When Jo and Ben are at their best …

For those screaming that Embiid needs to be in the post, this had to be refreshing. There’s no secret to it. Brett Brown didn’t make any crazy adjustments. It boils down to Embiid running rim to rim instead of three-point line to three-point line. He got down the floor and got early position for easy post ups. He screened and rolled hard to the rim as well, which makes a huge difference. He was his dominant self Sunday, but more importantly, he played just a little over 22 minutes.

Though as mentioned it was against the Cavs, it’s always encouraging to see both Embiid and Simmons get going in the same game. Cedi Osman was no match for Simmons. Simmons took him off the dribble and punished him in the post. Simmons also continues to be strong defensively. He looks more engaged this season and well on his way to earning some type of All-Defensive Team honors. 

He finished with 10 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal in just under 26 minutes.

Boost from the bench

The Sixers got just 11 points from their bench Friday in Oklahoma City. The reserves had 20 at the half Sunday.

Ennis was a huge part of that. He hit a trio of corner threes and was active defensively and on the glass throughout. Ennis has given the Sixers solid run his last three games. He had a season-high 14 points.

It’s clear that Furkan Korkmaz has cooled from his torrid pace, but it was good to see the Turkish wing put the ball on the floor and make a couple plays for 13 points. Rookie Matisse Thybulle was good in his first-half run, hitting a three and finishing on a rare drive. Trey Burke got the backup point guard minutes over Raul Neto.

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Sixers at Cavaliers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Cavaliers: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (7-5) will look to get back into the win column in Cleveland when they take on the Cavaliers (4-7) this afternoon.

Here are the essentials for today’s game:

When: 3 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

Time to get right

There’s no such thing as a good loss, but man, the Sixers’ losses have been particularly brutal. On Friday night, they held a nine-point lead with 7:20 to go but gave up a 12-2 run and eventually lost in overtime to the Thunder.

The Sixers have glaring issues — especially in their starting five — but Brett Brown feels like he knows what they are.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

We'll see.

Taking care of business

This Cavs team isn’t as bad as perhaps we all thought coming into this season. They start two extremely young guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but they’re still flanked by veteran bigs Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

Cleveland also gave the Sixers all they could handle earlier this week — especially veteran guard Jordan Clarkson (20 points). The Sixers were able to sneak out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 98-97 win. Then again, when is the last time this team played a game that wasn’t close?

While the Cavs are maybe better than anticipated, this is a team the Sixers should be able to get well against. On Tuesday, they held Cleveland scoreless for over three minutes to close out the game. They need to bring that for 48 minutes and get right with a win over a team they’re clearly more talented than. 

Sorting out the bench

Furkan Korkmaz was scorching hot for a six-game stretch. He shot 50.9 percent from three and averaged 13.8 points in mostly bench minutes. In his last three games, he’s just 4 of 16 from distance. The issue with Korkmaz is if he’s not hitting shots, he doesn’t bring much else to the table. You saw Oklahoma City pick on him in overtime after Tobias Harris fouled out.

Korkmaz has been getting the most minutes off Brown’s bench recently. Should he be? Rookie Matisse Thybulle got off to a roaring start, but has looked overmatched offensively. With that said, he’s just so special defensively, Brown should deal with the growing pains on the other end. In games Thybulle has played at least 12 minutes, the Sixers are 6-1.

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